Proverbs 12-13: The Wise Listen
"Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to advice." (Pr. 12:15)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the famous 20th Century German Pastor and Theologian once said; "[Discipline is a] station on the way to freedom." It seems as humans we are split into the parts of us that is hardwired to think that we are right, and the part of us that grows in wisdom and recognizes our need to listen. Perhaps this is why Proverbs hones in on the family and on parenting all throughout - because if we're not disciplined well as children, there is a good chance we'll never learn to be disciplined as adults.
It's odd - we desire "freedom" - which in our current culture is mistaken as something that allows us to do whatever we want. However, wise people quickly learn that when we're "free" to run after our own passions in an unbridled kind of way, we end up becoming a slave to the very things that we thought we loved.
The Bible talks a lot about this dynamic of being "free" in Christ, which is actually much more like the idea of being meek than it is saying "I can do whatever I want." The reality is, a meek person is like a bridled stallion - powerful, athletic, majestic, and yet, a bridled stallion has been disciplined in order to listen to the voice of its master. Freedom comes when we have learned to listen to true wisdom, and not when we insist upon selfishly acting in our own interest at the expense of the world around us.
From this vantage we can read Proverbs 12:1 which says:
"Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but those who hate to be rebuked are stupid."
This chapter is filled with sayings that continue along these lines. There are dichotomies between truth and falsities (v. 17), truthful lips and a lying tongue (v. 19), deceit and those who counsel peace (v. 20), lying lips and faithfulness (v. 22), and so on. At its heart, Solomon wants us to recognize what happens when we fail to listen, to heed advice, to take a holy rebuke from those who want nothing but the best for us. When we go this route we not only are privately foolish, we actually are seen by the whole world - "...the mind of a fool broadcasts folly." (v. 23b)
So where does this leave us?
I think it leaves each of us with some self-reflection to do. Some of us never received the kind of good and healthy discipline that we needed as children. We may be reaping the disordered kind of adulthood that we wish we could change. Others of us may live by a kind of legalism internally. We may need to learn the rhythms of freedom and grace. And some of us need a little bit of both ends of the spectrum. But no matter where we are, we can take our advice from Proverbs 13:20...
"Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools suffers harm."
Do you know someone wise? Someone actually wise, not just a smart person, but someone who knows how to walk with God and can help you on your journey. Surround yourself with people like that and you'll become like them; on the other hand, surround yourself with foolish people and you'll look just like them.
The path to wise living is filled with wise counselors and friends who can help you on your way. You really can't skirt around this step. Do whatever you need to find those people.